Objective To measure how weight status and weight perception relate to mental distress and psychosocial protective factors in adolescents. Methods Adolescents in 8th, 9th, and 11th grade participating in the 2013 Minnesota Student Survey (N = 122,180) were classified on the basis of weight perception (overweight or not overweight) and weight status (not overweight, overweight, obese). Bivariate tests were used to assess the relationship of weight status and weight perception with internal mental distress, and generalized linear models were used to measure the association between weight status and weight perception with psychosocial protective factors including parent, school, and friend connectedness, social competency, and positive identity. Logistic regressions measured the relationship between psychosocial protective factors and internal mental distress. Results Prevalence of internal mental distress ranged from 14.5% for overweight boys who perceived themselves as not overweight to 55.0% for girls who were not overweight but self-perceived as overweight. Across all weight-status categories, adolescents who perceived themselves as overweight, compared to those who did not, had higher internal mental distress and lower mean levels of psychosocial protective factors. All psychosocial protective factors were related to lower odds of internal mental distress, with significant small differences by weight status and weight perception. Conclusions Weight status and weight perception affected both mental distress and psychosocial protective factors. Those who perceived themselves as overweight, regardless of weight status, had the highest prevalence of mental distress and the lowest levels of psychosocial protective factors. Health care providers should consider screening for weight perception to provide a tailored approach to adolescent care.
- adolescent health
- psychosocial protective factors
- weight perception
- weight status